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US social media is said to be “buzzing” about treasure hunting and many TV programmes about it are being aired. Inevitably the format has spread here with “Hoard Hunters” and even the PAS-inspired “Britain’s Secret Treasures” (after which sales of detectors rocketed).

So now there’s a “Cacheology Society of America”. There’s a touch of “dirt track survivalism” about it but could it catch on here? It seems it has – for there’s also a “Cacheology Society and Institute of the United Kingdom”! It could be just baloney, as its mission sounds unconvincing – to recover caches of lost treasure “for the expansion of mankind’s study, education, instruction, collecting, showcasing, and the preservation of caches that time and the environment rapidly and thoroughly destroy, thus erasing vital and irreplaceable historical records and artifacts of the entire world.

Tolkein’s Smaug: academic, consevationist or cacheologist?

Tolkein’s Smaug: academic, conservationist or cacheologist?

But here’s a big question:

What if it isn’t baloney? What if we get lots of British “cacheologists” lawfully targeting archaeological sites in the hope of finding treasure caches and claiming it was “for the expansion of mankind’s study? Would the Government approve, despite the damage caused in the process? Well, we know the answer. It’s a resounding “yes” for there are many thousands of people out today doing exactly that.


More Heritage Action views on metal detecting and artefact collecting


We suggest financing repairs to your historic church by selling the right to dig up, take home and sell on EBay lots of your other history is irrational and damages both history and your good name. Here are 5 things those who suggested it may not have mentioned:

1. The Irish Culture Minister recently said : “Archaeological objects must be excavated in a structured scientific manner, with careful recording of their association with other objects, structures, features and soil layers. Failure to expertly record the context from which an object has been removed results in an irreplaceable loss of knowledge of the past.”

2. English Heritage has guidelines on how to run proper professional metal detecting surveys that maximise knowledge-gain and minimise damage. As you’ll see, your event is nothing like that.

3. The Council for British Archaeology say: “As long as it remains safe then it is better to leave the evidence for future generations to investigate with better techniques and with better-informed questions to ask. Any disturbance of the relationship between finds and the features they relate to within the ground will result in a loss of knowledge unless it is undertaken carefully using archaeological techniques and with full recording. Digging for objects can destroy archaeological evidence. Even objects apparently adrift in plough-soil have an archaeological setting.”

4. It costs about £1000 a day for archaeologists to attend “detecting rallies” like yours (so says a County Council adjacent to you) and they come to mitigate the damage not because they approve – ask them!

5. If you wish to get involved in proper Community Archaeology there are lots of other ways – see here. They can even involve lots of metal detectorists, it’s not hard, here’s an excellent current example.


On the other hand, your event is perfectly legal in Britain (although it would get you jailed in most countries!) and one delighted detectorist has written that your group are “true pioneers and their joint venture could well lead to other similar events provided they remain courageous enough to cock-a-snoop at supercilious archaeologists”  while another (in America!) says that “anyone that would wish an event like this to fail is one sub-par human being” So the choice is yours. You can be the toast of artefact hunters. Or you can heed archaeologists.

You poster says: “Do you want to be there when the exciting discoveries are being made? Then come along and watch the detectorists in action” and “Now Worlingworth gets its opportunity to make HISTORY!” Yuk! That sounds to us the sort of misplaced concept of Archaeology that could only have come from artefact hunters. So we suggest you have a long private chat with some archaeologists. (You’ll find not one of them will be willing to supply you with a quote saying “this event is harmless and we support it” so you can draw your own conclusions!)


September 2013

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